I had to take some appetizers to a party so decided to make mini seafood potpies. I love potpies but we usually make them with chicken. I thought seafood would make a nice change. You could do this with shrimp only or crab only. Or you can add lobster or scallops for more varied seafood. Just make sure your combination of seafood totals half a pound. If you like, you can double the filling recipe to make one deep dish potpie.
The first time I tried artichoke dip was at a restaurant in San Francisco. It was to die for. They served it with thin, crispy tortilla chips. The dip was warm, cheesy, gooey, in short, everything you want in a dip. One bite and I was a fan for life.
This dip is easy to prepare. If you have a food processor, you could throw everything except the artichoke hearts in there and get it all blended together. Then add the artichoke hearts last and pulse them a few times so they’re chopped but not mush. Scrape it all into your gratin dish and bake.
HOT ARTICHOKE DIP
1 pkg. (8 ozs.) cream cheese, softened
½ cup mayonnaise
1 can (14 ozs.) artichoke hearts in water, drained and chopped
2 green onions, sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup shredded mozzarella
½ cup grated parmesan
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth.
Beat in mayonnaise until well combined.
Add remaining ingredients and stir together well.
Transfer mixture to a pie plate or shallow gratin dish.
Bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until mixture is bubbling and top is golden brown.
Serve hot with bread, crackers, tortilla chips, or veggies.
This recipe is a play on traditional Nachos, except instead of tortilla chips, you use tater tots. It makes a hearty and delicious appetizer, or can be served for a yummy brunch dish. Try to have whatever toppings you’ve chosen all ready to go so that as soon as the cheese is melted over the tater tots, you can pile on your toppings and serve right away. The longer the tater tots sit with the toppings on them, the less crunchy they become. Not that that’s a bad thing. My family just prefers them crunchy.
1 bag (2 lbs.) frozen tater tots
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
sour cream, thinned with a little water or milk till pourable
fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
chorizo, removed from casing, crumbled and cooked
refried beans or black beans
diced red onion
sliced black olives
whole kernel corn
sliced pickled jalapeños
pico de gallo, or your favorite salsa
Line a jellyroll pan with foil.
Arrange tater tots in single layer on baking pan and bake according to package directions until brown and crispy.
Remove from oven and sprinkle cheese over tater tots.
If necessary, return to oven and bake just until cheese is all melted.
Remove from oven and top with any combination of the toppings listed above. You can use as much or as little as you like of the toppings.
Did you know that February 2nd is National Tater Tot Day? It’s an easy day for me to remember because it’s also my only brother’s birthday. Tater tots are an iconic American food that was created in the early 1950’s. The founders of Ore-Ida were trying to figure out what to do with all the little leftover pieces of potato that they had tons of everyday. They chopped up the potato pieces, mixed them with flour and seasonings, then forced the mixture through the barrel of an extruder, slicing off little one-inch pieces as the mixture came through. And so the tater tot was born.
Actually, when the little potato nuggets were first created, they didn’t have a name for them so the owners of Ore-Ida decided to have a name-the-product contest among their employees. The name “Tater Tots” was submitted by a young mother named Clora Lay Orton. Everyone loved the name and she won the contest.
It’s hard to believe that when the inexpensive tater tots were first sold in stores in 1956, they didn’t exactly fly off the shelves. Today, Americans consume approximately 70 million pounds of them per year! It’s safe to say the lowly tater tot has finally found its place in society, from school cafeterias to the ever popular food truck. It’s certainly found its way to our dinner table!
CHEESY BACON TATER TOTS
1 bag frozen tater tots
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup ranch dressing
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
6 slices bacon, fried crisp and crumbled
2 stalks green onions, chopped
Bake tater tots according to package directions.
While tots are baking, combine sour cream and ranch dressing in a bowl.
Drizzle sour cream mixture over baked tater tots.
Sprinkle cheeses over the top.
Place under broiler until cheese is completely melted.
Remove from broiler and top with crumbled bacon and green onions.
Return to broiler for 2-5 minutes to warm up the bacon.
I love smoked salmon. It’s delicious made with pasta or turned into a dip for crackers. But my all-time favorite way to eat smoked salmon is with bagels and cream cheese. These canapés are a take-off on the bagel and cream cheese idea. Instead of bagels, I used english cucumbers for a base. I made our family’s traditional cream cheese filling, but I substituted dill for the green onions.
If you’re wondering where to get smoked salmon, Costco carries a Norwegian brand called Foppen that is just wonderful because besides being delicious, the salmon is already thinly sliced and ready to use. The package comes with plain, peppered, and dilled slices. I cut each slice into strips and then roll each strip into a cone to make the little rosette shapes. It’s really easy and looks so pretty on your appetizer table.
SMOKED SALMON CUCUMBER CANAPÉS
1 lb. smoked salmon, very thinly sliced
2 english cucumbers
1 pkg. (8 ozs.) cream cheese, at room temperature
¼ cup mayonnaise
4 tbsps. fresh dill, chopped
½ tsp. salt
With a fork, score lines down the skin of the cucumbers. Slice scored cucumbers into rounds.
In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese, mayonnaise, dill, and salt until well combined.
Pipe a little cream cheese mixture on top of each cucumber slice.
With a sharp paring knife, cut each slice of smoked salmon into strips approximately ¾ inch wide.
Roll each strip into a rosette shape.
Top each cucumber slice with a salmon rosette.
If not serving immediately, chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.
This is an old Pampered Chef recipe that I learned to make many years ago when The Pampered Chef was still in its early years. The company operates on the same principle as Tupperware — people host a party where the company’s products are demonstrated and sold. I attended a Pampered Chef party where this dish was served and loved it so much that I made it myself for the party I subsequently hosted. It’s been a favorite with my family ever since. A lot of times, I make the recipe healthier by substituting reduced fat crescent rolls, fat-free cream cheese and/or lite mayonnaise.
Anyway, it’s the last day of Nurses Week tomorrow so I’m making this to take to the office. I know the nurses will love it, especially since I’m making the healthy version. Did I ever mention that I work with a bunch of nurses? Well, I do. So healthy food always goes over big at our office potlucks.
COOL VEGGIE PIZZA
1 can refrigerated crescent rolls
1 box cream cheese, softened
1½ tsp. mayonnaise
1 garlic clove, crushed and minced fine
1 tsp. dill weed
salt and pepper, to taste
2 cups chopped assorted fresh vegetables (any combination of vegetables you like such as broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, green or red bell peppers, tomatoes, green onions, mushrooms, carrots, zucchini or yellow summer squash, etc.)
Preheat oven to 375° F.
Unroll crescent roll dough onto a cookie sheet and pinch seams together to seal.
Bake 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned.
Remove from oven and let cool completely.
Combine cream cheese, mayonnaise, garlic, dill weed, salt and pepper together in a small bowl.
Spread the cream cheese mixture evenly on top of cooled crust.
Coarsely chop your selected vegetables.
Sprinkle a layer of each vegetable over pizza crust.
Cut into squares and serve.
If you don’t like dill, you can substitute Italian Seasoning mix. You can also omit the garlic if you want to.
My favorite combination of veggies that I use whenever I make this pizza is: zucchini, mushrooms, green and red bell peppers, tomatoes and green onions.
I felt like having Chinese food for dinner tonight and started thinking about P.F. Chang’s restaurant. We haven’t eaten there in years, but I remember how much I loved their chicken lettuce wraps. Well, I didn’t have any chicken, but I did have some ground pork so I thought, why not? Couldn’t I create something using pork as a substitute? Here’s what I came up with. The family loved it! I called the dish “Asian” because it was inspired by the wraps from a Chinese restaurant, but teriyaki marinade is Japanese, the noodles are Filipino, the peanut sauce is Indonesian, and the Mae Ploy sauce is Thai. LOL! A delicious blend of Asian flavors!
ASIAN LETTUCE CUPS
Prepare the Meat:
1 lb. ground chicken or ground pork (I used ground pork)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 bottle Soy Vay Veri Veri Teriyaki marinade & sauce (or use your favorite brand)
Brown ground meat and garlic in a medium saucepot.
Drain excess oil, if any.
Stir in 1/2 cup teriyaki marinade and let cook for 2-3 minutes, then taste the meat. If it seems lacking in flavor, add more teriyaki sauce, a tablespoon at a time, until the flavor is to your liking. Be careful not to add too much or it will be too salty! I like Soy Vay teriyaki marinade but you could really use whatever brand you like.
Stir in grated ginger, cook for a minute more, and then taste the meat again. Just like with the teriyaki sauce, you can add more grated ginger, a teaspoon at a time, till the flavor is to your liking.
Stir in the water chestnuts, green onion, shitake mushrooms and jalapeño. Depending on how big your shitake mushroom caps are, you can add more or less, or omit them entirely if you don’t like them at all. Same thing with the jalapeño. You can add more than one if you want the dish spicier, or omit it altogether.
Make the Peanut Sauce:
1 can coconut milk
1 cup creamy peanut butter
½ cup water
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1½ tbsp. fish sauce
1 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. lime juice
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tbsp. grated ginger
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepot and cook over medium heat, stirring with a wire whisk until well blended.
The sauce thickens as it cools. If it becomes too thick, add more water, a tablespoon at a time, till it reaches the consistency you want.
Prepare Remaining Ingredients:
1-2 heads butter lettuce
1 pkg. bean thread or cellophane noodles
1 carrot, julienned
1 bunch cilantro leaves, chopped
1 bunch basil leaves, chopped
1 bunch mint leaves, chopped
1 cup peanuts, finely chopped (optional)
Mae Ploy sweet chilli sauce
Carefully separate larger, outer lettuce leaves and wash and dry them well.
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, add the noodles and let boil just until softened, about 2 minutes or so. Drain into a colander, run cold water over them, then allow to drain and cool completely.
Place all the condiments in separate little serving bowls.
Have everyone assemble their own wraps.
Place a lettuce leaf on your plate.
Top with some noodles, then meat, carrots, and herbs.
Pour a little peanut sauce over the top.
Add a little Mae Ploy sweet chilli sauce.
Then finally, sprinkle top with chopped peanuts if desired.
If your lettuce leaf is big enough, you can roll it into a little log and call it a lettuce wrap. If not, just serve it open-faced with a fork and knife and call it a lettuce cup like I did! A rose by any other name, right?
NOTE: If you don’t like ground chicken or ground pork, you can make this dish with whole boneless, skinless chicken thighs. Mix the teriyaki marinade and grated ginger together (omit the rest of the ingredients). Marinate the chicken in the teriyaki-ginger mixture for at least an hour, preferably overnight. Grill the chicken or bake it in the oven. Slice cooked chicken into thin strips. Then continue with the recipe.
I originally saw this recipe on the Martha Stewart website and thought it would be fun to try making it. My family loves the Chinese sausage known as “lap cheong” and I love anything made with puff pastry. Lap Cheong wrapped in puff pastry sounded like a match made in heaven. These little bites were so easy to prepare, besides being tasty and addictive. Don’t forget to serve them with spicy Chinese mustard. It pairs perfectly with the sweet sausage bites.
CHINESE SAUSAGE BITES
1 large egg
1 tbsp. water
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
flour, for dusting
4 Chinese sausages (lap cheong)
1 scallion, thinly sliced on the bias
1/4 cup Chinese mustard
Preheat oven to 375ºF.
Whisk egg and water together in a small bowl.
On a lightly floured surface, roll puff pastry to about 10 x 12 inches.
Cut into four 5 x 6-inch rectangles.
Brush egg wash along one long edge of a puff pastry rectangle.
Lay one sausage along opposite edge and roll up, pressing seam to seal.
Place on parchment-lined baking sheet, seam side down, and brush with egg wash.
Repeat with remaining puff pastry and sausages.
Freeze until firm, about 15 minutes.
Bake until puff pastry has cooked through and is golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes.
Let cool slightly, then slice into rounds using a serrated knife.
Transfer to a platter and sprinkle with sliced scallions for garnish.
Gambas al Ajillo or Garlic Shrimp is one of the best Spanish tapas ever! It’s a favorite all over Spain and is served in homes and tapas bars in practically every city in the country. It’s very easy to make and is sometimes cooked and/or served in a shallow terracotta or clay pot called a cazuela.
I originally learned to make gambas many years ago from my Spanish chef friend, Mari. Since then, I’ve tweaked what he taught me to come up with my own version. For one thing, in Spain gambas are traditionally cooked in plain olive oil but I like to use a blend of half olive oil and half butter. I find that the butter imparts a great flavor to this dish. It may not be very traditional, but it works for me! Mari also slices his garlic cloves in thin slices, but I prefer to mince my garlic. Some people add a little Spanish sweet paprika or pimentón to their gambas. I don’t usually do this (Mari didn’t), but you can if you want to. Also, more often than not, I make this dish without the alcohol at all and it turns out just fine.
Don’t forget the oh-so-important step of serving slices of fresh bread along with your gambas for sopping up the sauce! In my experience, the shrimp disappear fast whenever I make this dish, but they leave behind a bowl of garlicky sauce that is wonderful for dunking bread in. It’s a great way to extend the enjoyment of eating gambas even after the shrimp are all gone.
GAMBAS AL AJILLO
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup butter
10-14 large cloves garlic, minced or thinly sliced
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper (increase to ½ tsp. if you want it spicier)
½ tsp. salt, or to taste
3 Tbsp. minced parsley
3 Tbsp. brandy or cognac or dry sherry (optional)
french baguette bread, sliced
Heat olive oil and butter together over medium heat in a sauté pan.
Sauté garlic and crushed red pepper until garlic is cooked but still tender. Don’t let the garlic brown.
Toss in the shrimp and salt, and sauté just until shrimp turns pink.
Stir in parsley and brandy, if using. At this point, Chef Mari would shake the pan, tilting it slightly so the alcohol would catch fire. You can skip that step. Or not. Totally up to you.
Transfer to a shallow serving bowl or cazuela.
Serve immediately with slices of french bread for soaking up the sauce.
Jackie was my classmate in school from the time we were in kindergarten all the way through high school. We hit it off right away and became fast friends. On one of my visits to her house (I think we were only in the 5th grade then), her mom served us some cream puffs and I absolutely loved them. Even at that tender age, I was interested in cooking. I asked for the recipe which Jackie wrote out on an index card for me. To this day, I still use that same recipe carefully handwritten on that old, now yellowed index card.
Over the years, I’ve kept the ingredients true to the original recipe, but I’ve changed the procedure a bit for baking them. For instance, the original recipe called for baking the puffs for 20 minutes, then turning the oven off and letting them sit for 10 minutes in the turned off oven with the oven door slightly ajar. I just bake them for about 25 minutes straight and then I’m done. Cream puffs are a wonderful French invention. Known as “pâte à choux” in France, they are amazing in their versatility and swing from sweet to savory with a simple switch of the filling. They can be filled with custard, pastry cream, whipped cream, or ice cream, or for a savory appetizer or brunch dish, fill them with chicken salad, curried shrimp, tuna or crab salad, creamed turkey, or whatever your heart desires.
1 cup water
½ cup butter
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup flour
Preheat oven to 425ºF. Line two cookie sheets with silpat silicone baking mats or parchment paper.
In a medium saucepan, bring water, butter and salt to a rolling boil.
Add flour all at once, keeping pan on the heat, and stir rapidly with a wooden spoon until mixture forms a ball.
Remove pan from heat and still using wooden spoon, beat in eggs, one at a time, until all eggs are well blended. If you want, you can use a hand mixer for this step.
Spoon or pipe onto prepared cookie sheets, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Depending on how small or large you make them, you should get between 16-24 puffs.
Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until medium golden brown.
Allow to cool completely; then fill with desired filling.